Monday, March 04, 2013

SARDH - "Pop Music for Klingons"?

We present a text by Alexander Nym discussing the new album by Sardh – have they managed to extract new life from well-worn post-industrial templates?

Dresden-based art group SARDH explore soundscapes spanning the space between the archaic and the futuristic.

SARDH is the musical project of a group of established Dresden-based artists who have been active in a range of creative spheres including (sound-)installation and video art. Following their appearances with album-oriented show “ausBRUTH” at Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2010, the Wroclaw Industrial Festival and the legendary Morphonic Lab event taking place annually at Dresden's Palais im Grossen Garten, they advanced to becoming a hot tip not merely for avantgarde-minded scenesters (which might also be due to the participation of the notorious Voxus Imp).

The recently issued album Bruth thus draws all registers of sophisticated sound art at the audio-visual threshold between experimental electronics and cinematographic ambient expeditions without shrinking from using heavy, partly disharmonious post-rock guitars and martial psychedelia which contain splinters of majestic metal (“tessga tendur”). The vocals are amplified by harsh effects, reciting cryptic glossolalia or associative semantic constructions in accord with dadaist (anti-)poetics reminiscent of Test Dept. at their most impressive (“para elion”). On some tracks they are reduced to repetitively shouted warnings, but in general, the understanding of the lyrical content isn't much eased by the accompanying lyric sheets since SARDH's bruitist cut-up-texts seem to defy every attempt at intellectual deciphering, deploying exclusively sonic counterpoints reminiscent in their harsh scratchiness of some sort black metal poetry. The beats are focussed, sometimes slightly withheld in a dub way, and used with precise efficiency in a powerful and mighty way, creating an extensive and overall tension-laden effect before a backdrop of atmospheric ambiances and soundtrackish sonic-scapes not unlike those of pioneering dark ambient artists like Contrastate or Inade – yet the compositions consist of coherent, rhythm-based song structures, lending them appealing accessibility, pointedness and distinct space for development which is used with a love for detail making full use of the voluminous production.

Among the nine extensive, mostly mid- to downtempo pieces there are also a few dance-floor compatible tracks (assuming you're running a club on Jupiter, or a 22nd century bar, or are looking for a fitting soundtrack for a Matrix-style remake of “Eyes Wide Shut”) like the previously mentioned, stomping “tessga tendur” or the primitivist SF-hymn “asterloh”. So when not pushed against the wall by psychedelic photon-guitars or metal forcefields, moodily gloomy carpets of sound and spoken-word contributions invite listeners to stay in the – certainly not humourless – cosmos of SARDH. Within the richly textured sound structures, the ears are repeatedly surprised by acoustic ready-mades (field recordings and found sounds), used rather as stresses and mood setters than as sampled references; beacons on the path through the convoluted universe of SARDH. When looking for fitting genre descriptions, the musically minded journalist's brain is frustrated by Bruth's staunch defiance of any particular style, but Ritual-Industrial-Ambient-Rock might demarcate a frame of reference not entirely off the mark. However, this too is too poor a description to get close to the richness of ideas featuring on Bruth, which seems to draw its inspiration directly from post-apocalyptic and futuristic parallel dimensions.

The artwork and production emphasise this range between opulence and minimalism: the cover is adorned by a hand-printed silkscreen design showing an intricate pattern of jagged lines the connections of which seem fragile, but in its entirety gives a staunch and solid impression like the cancellous bone supplying both stability and flexibility to our musculo-skeletal system. Accordingly, the record labels show similarly minimalist illustrations depicting likewise fractured heads of extra-terrestrial visitors – possibly the portraits of SARDH's actual members?

The heavy, 180g vinyl discs offer plenty of space for the grooves, enabling great acoustic depth in sound reproduction which is made full use of by the production. Every detail of this album demonstrates the work of people aware of the means to realise their visions and their ability to use them. Bruth is an album coming across as bulky and in instances even plagiaristic on first listen, but uncovers its reflected eclecticism and the mature use of technology, ability, knowledge and enlightened creativity on repeated listening and can thus be recommended without hesitation not only to connoisseurs of electro-acoustic avantgarde music. A rare fusion of ideas realised with both archaic and modern techniques (ranging from monochord and kaoss-pad to an instrument named piss-pot) amalgamated with elaborate design to achieve a consistent all-round work of art, the quality of which should satisfy both sophisticated music enthusiasts and collectors of rare industrial culture artifacts. 

Alexander Nym

SARDH: Bruth
Double vinyl-LP (Gatefold sleeve with hand-printed silkscreen cover and two inserts; numbered edition of 300 copies)
Label: self-produced (mysyc)